Cinema

Him and only him

Kochadaiyaan poster  

I’d also eagerly await ‘Kochadaiiyaan’ if only Rajnikanth had acted in it! I’m not alone in feeling this way. It’s shared by his die-hard fans too though their mutterings are muted. They were confused till the teasers confirmed their worst fears. Why should they watch a caricature when the man is alive and kicking? Was he forced to do this because ‘Sultan’ was shelved after a fortune was spent? Why make a mythological, that too with motion capture technology when the man’s mere gait, on-screen can bring the house down? They don’t expect ‘Thalaiva’ to do the ‘Thandav’. ‘Leave that to Kamal,’ they’d say. They just want to watch him play the underdog who overcomes all of life’s obstacles, vanquish the villains and win the fair heroine’s hand. The sole reason you watch a Rajni film is the superstar himself. He’s a phenomenon, a force of nature. Mimics are thriving but a few pretenders have long disappeared from the scene. You cannot dissect his success. Nobody can explain why he appeals to fans cutting across barriers like age and language. He’s worshipped by fans and venerated by peers. You can find reasons for a few failures though. Sadly, films close to his heart have never succeeded, be it ‘Valli’, ‘Sri Raghavendra’, ‘Kuselan’ or ‘Baba’. There is clarity in his fans expectations. They just want him to perform, not preach.

Now this is not a foreboding of failure. It’s more about disappointment. The constant postponement of the film’s release has fuelled rumours of apprehension among the makers themselves. I mean, imagine a ‘Thalaiva’ release being postponed because there’s an Ajith or Vijay film on the anvil. The announcement of a ‘quickie’ seems to confirm this. It’s purportedly being made to douse the disappointment. Being produced by Kannada producer ‘Rockline’ Venkatesh the film will be directed by K.S. Ravikumar known for wrapping up projects in a jiffy. It’s a no-holds-barred entertainer in the ‘Padayappa’ genre that will have fans asking for more, says an insider. The film will be shot in and around Mysore and the Ramoji Rao studios in Hyderabad. On the superstar’s wish list though, according to a reliable source is a sequel to ‘Robot’. It’s been on his mind and he’s excited enough to have had confabulations with director Shanker. Now that’s something for the fans to look forward to.

I always tell people not to meet their screen idols. Not only is the aura of mystery lost, most of them will leave you disappointed. One of the few exceptions is Rajnikanth. I’ve interviewed him a few times and bumped into him at studios in Chennai. Not much has changed. His childhood friends will vouch for that. He’s bound to ask you casual, personal questions more out of curiosity than inquisitiveness. The first time I met him for a piece called ‘A day with the Superstar’, he drove me to the studio where he was shooting a multi-lingual in his white Fiat. He waved to fans on bicycles trying to overtake him but also told them to be careful. When he learnt that I was an alumnus of National College he asked, “ Narasimiahanavaru innu topi hakthaara?” “ Yaarge,” I asked him in jest making him lean back and laugh loudly in his typical style. At the studio he constantly enquired about my comfort. He put everyone at ease, be it a photographer from a local daily, a spot boy or a junior artiste. Between shots, when not answering my questions he’d be lost in thought, puffing away at the ubiquitous cigarette. He did struggle with success or the inability to handle it. He got into petty brawls, rubbed peers the wrong way and reportedly tried to run over a scribe. Nobody knows the reason but Rajni suddenly mellowed down, even before his marriage, taking refuge in the works of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda. In fact the next time I interviewed him he told me to ask questions about philosophy. I said nobody would be interested in reading that. He stared at me with his beady eyes for a few moments before reluctantly answering queries about his career. His struggle with success continued. At one point he wanted to renounce everything and even donated a bungalow to ISKCON. It took the persuasive powers of his pal Kamal for him to see reason. The accusation that he was deserting his fans seemed to have hit a raw nerve.

Today he’s in the twilight of his career, physically vulnerable after a mysterious illness. Success sits comfortably on his slender shoulders. He’s doing fewer films but the frenzy amongst fans is intact. They’re eager to get as much of him as possible. They’d like to watch Rajni onscreen, not something like him!

Mail the writer at sshivu@yahoo.com


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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 12:13:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/him-and-only-him/article5896122.ece

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